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A Vikings, Seahawks collapse is crucial for a Packers playoff berth

As long as one non-Dallas Cowboys wildcard team trips up down the stretch, Green Bay is in a good position to take advantage of a weak NFC.

Minnesota Vikings v Seattle Seahawks Photo by Christopher Mast/Getty Images

When the Green Bay Packers upset the Detroit Lions on Thanksgiving, the NFC playoff picture was flipped on its head. Sitting with a 5-6 record, the Packers are now very much in the wildcard hunt, despite having an extremely slow start on the offensive side of the ball to begin the 2023 season.

To illustrate how much has changed in the NFC over the past week, we’re going to take a look at DVOA (defense-adjusted value over average) — which was once hosted by Football Outsiders and is now brought to you by FTN Fantasy. According to the new DVOA update, the Packers have a 55.4 percent chance of making the postseason this year, with a 25 percent chance, individually, of punching in a playoff ticket as either the sixth or seventh seed in the NFC.

For perspective, the Seahawks, who have a better record than the Packers at 6-5, only have a 34.5 percent chance to make the postseason. The biggest reason for that is Seattle’s strength of schedule. Not only have the Seahawks lost three of their last four games, after starting the season with a 5-2 record, but Seattle also has to play the Dallas Cowboys, the San Francisco 49ers and the Philadelphia Eagles over the next three weeks. Those teams, combined, have posted a 26-7 record in 2023.

Meanwhile, the Packers are set to play four teams in their final six games that rank behind Green Bay in DVOA’s power rankings. The two exceptions in the Packers’ remaining schedule are the Kansas City Chiefs and the Minnesota Vikings — the latter being a virtual toss-up based on the analytics.

Green Bay’s remaining opponents on the schedule have just a .388 win percentage this season, which would be the third-easiest mark in the final six weeks of the season and the easiest schedule remaining outside of the NFC South. In contrast, the Seahawks, who currently own the seventh seed in the NFC today, have the eighth-hardest schedule in the NFL. The Vikings, who the Packers will play again in Week 17, have a league-average strength of schedule moving forward.

The Packers also catch a break on the rest front, too, as their toughest opponent remaining on the schedule, the Chiefs this weekend, will be played after the “mini bye” that Green Bay received following the Packers’ Thanksgiving win. Green Bay needs help, particularly in passing the Seahawks and Vikings in the standings in the NFC, but the stars are aligning for a surprise Packers playoff berth.

As this article is written on November 27th, there’s a chance that Minnesota could have as many losses as Green Bay by the end of the night. The Vikings are currently sitting with a 6-5 record with a 69 percent chance to make the playoffs, per the New York Times’ playoff machine. If Minnesota loses to the Chicago Bears on Monday Night Football, their odds of making the postseason drop all the way down to 50 percent.

With how tough the remaining schedules are for the Vikings and Seahawks, the Packers probably just need to win four of their last six games of the season to sneak into the NFC playoffs as a wildcard team — which seems quite possible with Green Bay’s weak strength of schedule to end the 2023 regular season. From there, they just have to cross their fingers that one of Minnesota or Seattle trips up as they approach the finish line.